23 April 2008

Mouths Must Be Stopped

by Phil Johnson

o one would argue that everything in the Bible is crystal-clear. The inspired text itself contains an acknowledgement that "some things [in it] . . . are hard to understand" (2 Peter 3:16). We're not to imagine, however, that most of the Bible is sheer mystery—so lacking in clarity that every interpretation and every opinion about every doctrine deserves equal (or automatic) respect.

In fact, Christian leaders in particular are charged with the task of defending the truth against those who would twist it (Acts 20:28-31). As politically incorrect as this might sound to postmodern ears, there are abroad and within the church "many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers . . .. They must be silenced" (Titus 1:10-11). Or, in the more picturesque imagery of King James parlance, "[Their] mouths must be stopped."

How false teachers are to be silenced is one of those things in Scripture that is crystal-clear. It is not by physical force or auto-da-fé. But they are to be refuted and rebuked by qualified elders in the church who are skilled in the Scriptures, "able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it" (v. 8). That presupposes that vital truth is clear enough to know for certain. And it prescribes a clear remedy involving exhortation, reproof, rebuke, and correction.

This is to be done patiently, not pugnaciously: "The Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil" (2 Timothy 2:24-26).

And yet even within those boundaries, the defense of the faith sometimes requires a kind of spiritual militancy (1 Timothy 1:18; Jude 3). The Christian life—especially the duty of the leader—is frequently pictured in Scripture as that of warfare (2 Corinthians 10:3-6; Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 2:3-4).

So the defense of the faith is no easy task. But it is an indispensable duty for faithful Christians. Again, Scripture is not the least bit vague or equivocal about that.

Phil's signature

83 comments:

Johnny Dialectic said...

"But they are to be refuted and rebuked by qualified elders in the church who are skilled in the Scriptures."

Qualified elders? Skilled in the Scriptures?

What a damper you want to put on church growth and being relevant to society. Sheesh.

BReformed said...

I think it is insightful to point out that the "spiritual militancy" is "within the boundaries" of 2 Timothy 2:24-26.

That reminded me of God's own declaration in Zec. 4:6: "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts."

Jake said...

Phil - Giving the commenting another try :)....

I agree that correction should be done by qualified elders skilled in the Scripture, but I have another question: Shouldn't that correction happen in the context of the local church?

Put another way, is there a biblical category for one qualified elder. with no relationship of any kind with the person in question, to correct their theology?

What does that correction look like? Is it no different than in the local church? Or are there differences? What are they? In either case, what's the biblical rational for it?

The Doulos said...

Wow. Wow. How intolerant and arrogant. The scent of certitude is in the air... :-)

Thanks for the reminder, Phil. Actually, I had a "test case" of a situation like this just a couple days ago during a small group gathering. Not trying to hijack or self-promote, but you can read my account of it here.

Ye Olde Mike said...

I couldn't agree with you more. The 'truth and certainty' debate as they call it at Cedarville University annoys me by its mere existence. Scripture nowhere commands us to ask whether we're able to know it; we're simply commanded to know and obey, because God has spoken. Period.

Alex Jordan said...

This is an excellent reminder. I have written about this topic too, in an article titled "The Age of Tolerance Calls for Bold Proclamation of Truth" that was a response to David Aikman's CT article "Attack Dogs of Christendom". Aikman's article made some good points but missed the critically important truth that you're emphasizing here, and which I also made in my post. The way I said it was, "Getting doctrine right is no incidental, trivial aspect of our call to follow Christ, but a vital work."

Thanks for all the very relevant Scriptures you present here as well.

The Interface said...

Well said, and scripturally supported (as usual). We would do well to read Matthew 23 very carefully in this light. Jesus rebuke was public and so strong one almost feels the need for a fire extinguisher for these pages.

stratagem said...

I think the false teachers do get rebuked a lot of times. But, in Biblical times the false teachers didn't have so many books of nice-sounding arguments and university/seminary theology departments to draw upon to defend their errors. It was pretty much do it yourself. So, it's hard to shoot down the arguments of false teachers these days.

dac said...

Related quote of the Day (no Googling now)

"The idea that our relation to Christ is revealed by our attitude to His commandments is now considered legalistic by many influential Bible teachers, and the plain words of our Lord are rejected outright or interpreted in a manner to make them conform to theories ostensibly based upon the epistles of Paul. Thus the Word of God is denied as boldly by evangelicals as by admitted modernists."

Stefan said...

Phil, you seem to be implying that there's some core truth—some golden thread that runs through Scripture, against which criterion we can rightly handle the word of truth.

Hmmm...what could that core truth be???

And he said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Lk 24:25-26)

Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Lk 24:44-47)

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.... (1 Cor 15:3-4)

So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?"...Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. (Acts 8:30, 35)

And so on and so forth.

Yeah, how could we be so simple-minded and credulous as to actually believe that stuff, ask the "enlightened" skeptics—many of them claiming to be Christian.

But if it's good enough for first-generation Jewish believers and Gentile proselytes who were steeped in the Old Testament, it should be good enough for us.

The Spokesman said...

So the defense of the faith is no easy task. But it is an indispensable duty for faithful Christians. Again, Scripture is not the least bit vague or equivocal about that.

Amen! Sound ecclesiology reveals that the primary function of the church is the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming (Ephesians 4:12-14).

What does the equipped saint look like? One who has on the full armor of God and is able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:11). And also one ought to notice how many times in Ephesians 6:11-17 the words "stand firm" and against are used.

Alexander M. Jordan said...

It seems like the link to the article I tried to post in the above comment didn't work. So I'll try one more time:

The Age of Tolerance Calls for Bold Proclamation of Truth

Thanks,

Alex Jordan

donsands said...

I remember when I first learned of Kenneth Copeland's false teaching that Christ's blood is not enough for our salvation, and that Jesus needed to become Satan, and then be condemned to hell for three days, and I was very angry. I used to support this man, when I was a babe in Christ.

The Lord had mercy on me. I then began to share this with others who liked Copeland.
Most, but not all, stood for Kenneth, and said, "He has much fruit in his ministry". I remember writing to Mylon Lefever, and he said the same, that Kenneth Copeland has much fruit for the Lord in his life.

It's hard to stop mouths, but we certainly need to speak the truth in love, and mark those who cause division. Rom. 16:17

Bryan Riley said...

You are spot on. Here's the question begged: What is it we are to fight for? What should we be intolerant of? What must we be at war about?

Antonio said...

I agree, Pyromaniacs.

I think it is high time that proponents of so-called "Lordship Salvation" to realize that eternal life is free and rewards are costly; none of this contradictory language like, "Salvation is free but costs you everything."

Antonio

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"Mouths Must Be Stopped"

The Father of Lies just goes and gets himself another mouth to tell lies and to teach falsely.

Les said...

Antonio, what can of worms doth thou seek to open? So called "Lordship Salvation" is just biblical salvation. Yes, grace is free--else it is not grace. It is also costly--the Son of God paid the price. And, it absolutely changes the person as one enslaved to sin to one enslaved to Christ--their Lord.

NothingNewUnderTheSun said...

The age of postmodernism could be better classified as the time period in which modern western civilization enthusiastically disassembled itself while it falsely believed it was building a new (global) future. A civilization that was built upon the 'truth' of the Bible can’t last if it’s foundation that was once made of rock has been slowly replaced with sand.

Preson said...

Is no one gonna answer Jakes comment? He raises some very interesting thoughts. I'm on the edge of my seat with popcorn in hand.

YnottonY said...

Here's another possible translation for some blog commenters and modern apologists:

"The Lord's servant must be quarrelsome and demeaning to his opponents, craving debate, impatiently refuting evil, correcting his opponents with utter disdain and scorn. God may thereby harden them against the truth, so that they may persist in the snare of the devil. After all, they're likely to be reprobates anyway."

wordsmith said...

Amen, Phil - the mouths of false teachers must be stopped, but at times it gets to be wearisome! Some of them (and their sychophantic followers) are like the Energizer Bunny, repeating their tired old lies like a broken record (those of us who are "geezers" will get the reference) and swarming any blog or website that dares to refute their nonsense.

God bless and strengthen those who faithfully defend the teachings of Scripture against false teachers who wrest the Word of God to their own destruction.

farmboy said...

I've been a reader of Pyromaniacs from the beginning. As such, I'm one of those geezers who understands where wordsmith is coming from. There's a reason for Pyromaniacs' rule #5.

Rick Frueh said...

"Shouldn't that correction happen in the context of the local church?"

Yes, but in overarching ways that reach the body of Christ universal. The first step is to thoroughly teach sound doctrine to the members of each local assembly.

In concert with this, and in these days, the wise pastor will name teachings, name men who espouse them, and name books to avoid. The shepherd would also be wise to give some instruction as to how to be careful in the Christian bookstore, the blogasphere, and the mass media.

Care must be used not to produce Pharisees, but healthy, Scripturally grounded, and humble followers of Christ and not any man including the pastor himself. This is serious business and we cannot be blind to the evil One's continuing attempt to gently turn the entire evangelical community toward themselves.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Historians of the fundamentalist movement have often tried to portray it as always using military language to describe its mission. This is made fun of or rejected in light of the kinder, gentler evangelicalism. However, as you have pointed out, the Bible makes it clear that we are soldiers in a war. There is no getting around that.
Those apostles were so embarrassing! I'm sure if we would only use a "redemptive hermeneutic" then we would reject such silly talk.

Carl said...

If anyone is interested, there are literally a plethora of false teachers on Christian Usenet newsgroups (viewable via an online newsreader or via Google Groups) posting all sorts of nonsense. Unfortunately there are only a few willing to present refutations of their false teachings and heresies. It's doubtful that they will change their minds, but it's important still to refute their errors and false teachings for the benefit of other readers.

Carl said...

Incidentally some of the Usenet newsgroups to which I referred include:

alt.bible
alt.christnet
alt.christnet.christianlife
alt.religion.christian
alt.religion.christian.biblestudy
alt.religion.christianity
free.christians

Those tend to have the highest traffic.

Phil Johnson said...

Jake: "Shouldn't that correction happen in the context of the local church?"

If the false teaching takes place in the context of the local church, sure. If a heretic broadcasts his error via international television networks, the scope of the exposure and correction of that person's error needs to be commensurate with the scale on which the heresy was broadcast. Likewise, if a crank (or an apostate pastor, for that matter) uses the blogosphere to spread error that has the potential to confuse or corrupt people who are members of my flock, it's certainly appropriate to confront that person's error in the same arena where he spread it.

There's a reason the sin of Diotrephes is known to us today: the exposure of his error wasn't limited to one local congregation.

SolaMeanie said...

I agree with almost everything here, except that I don't think correction necessarily can only come from a "qualified elder." Perhaps you didn't intend to be that exclusive? I can't help but think about what Martin Luther said about how he would trust a milkmaid armed with Scripture more than "learned popes" or councils. That quote probably isn't word for word accurate, but that was the gist of it.

I also agree that we shouldn't be pugnacious in practice. However, Scripture does indicate that a sharp tone might be necessary from time to time. "Reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith."

Phil Johnson said...

Solameanie: "I don't think correction necessarily can only come from a 'qualified elder.' Perhaps you didn't intend to be that exclusive?"

Right. I didn't say "only."

But elders should lead the way on this. It's one of their distinctive duties, as we see in Titus 1:9 (the passage I was dealing with).

In fact, that's an important point: refuting error is a duty for elders; not necessarily for milkmaids.

Lots of elders and pastors deliberately shun that duty, and that's one of the reasons the church today has been overrun with false teaching, doubt, and the type of amateur theologizing that flourishes among a certain class of bumptious bloggers.

Bravo for that milkmaid armed with Scripture. The virtual barfly armed mainly with his own doubts and prejudices is a different case altogether.

Stefan said...

Jonathan Moorhead:

I have heard it explained that the term "Prince of Peace" in Isaiah 9:6 translates a Hebrew term that indicates someone who secures peace by winning victory on the battlefield. Makes sense when you consider Christ's ultimate triumph over the Adversary and his minions in a time yet to come, in Revelation.

(Of course, there's much more wealth and beauty in Isaiah 9:6. The child that was to be born would be called "Mighty God" and "Everlasting Father." Consider the implications of that in a strictly monotheistic faith. No wonder it took four centuries to properly formulate the doctrine of the Trinity!)

Stefan said...

Solameanie:

Not only Luther, but Tyndale too, in response to a cleric:

"If God spare my life, ere many years, I will cause a boy that driveth a plough shall know more of the Scriptures than thou doest."

Tyndale burned at the stake for his commitment to the Gospel, but of course his work and prayers paved the way for Scripture to be available in the vernacular in England, so that each person could have sufficient knowledge to believe in Christ, repent, and be saved.

apologies said...

yes definitely not "only" Elders, but they should lead the way.
I guess the trick is to do it in love with patient compassion so as to remain "above reproach"

Bryan Riley said...

Is Calvinism something worth fighting over? Why or Why not?

Puritan said...

Bryan Riley wrote "Is Calvinism something worth fighting over? Why or Why not?"

Yes because it has a massive impact on how we do church and evangelism. Reject it (even like four pointers like Driscoll-(No LA/PR)), and the result is seeker sensitive church and evangelism.

Revivalfire said...

Good post, I enjoy your outspokeness and frankness.

John

Revivalfire said...

Thought some of you folks may appreciate this

HERMENEUTICS (=the study of the meaning of scripture)

Lets apply the principles to something from everyday life!

Suppose you're traveling to work and you see a stop sign. What do you do? That depends on how you exegete (interpret) the stop sign.

1. A postmodernist deconstructs the sign (knocks it over with his car), ending forever the tyranny of the north-south traffic over the east-west traffic.

2. Similarly, a Marxist refuses to stop because he sees the stop sign as an instrument of class conflict. He concludes that the bourgeois use the north-south road and obstruct the progress of the workers in the east-west road.

3. A serious and educated Catholic rolls through the intersection because he believes he cannot understand the stop sign apart from its interpretive community and tradition. Observing that the interpretive community doesn't take it too seriously, he doesn't feel obligated to take it too seriously either.

4. An average Catholic (or Orthodox or Coptic or Anglican or Methodist or whatever) doesn't bother to read the sign but he'll stop if the car in front of him does.

5. A fundamentalist, taking the text very literally, stops at the stop sign and waits for it to tell him to go.

6. A seminary-educated evangelical preacher might look up "STOP" in his lexicons of English and discover that it can mean: 1)something which prevents motion, such as a plug for a drain, or a block of wood that prevents a door from closing; 2) a location where a train or bus lets off passengers. The main point of his sermon the following Sunday on this text is: when you see a stop sign, it is a place where traffic is naturally clogged, so it is a good place to let off passengers from your car.

7. An orthodox Jew does one of two things: a) Take another route to work that doesn't have a stop sign so that he doesn't run the risk of disobeying the Law; b) Stop at the sign, say "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who hast given us thy commandment to stop," wait 3 seconds according to his watch, and then proceed. Incidently, the Talmud has the following comments on this passage: R[abbi] Meir says: He who does not stop shall not live long. R. Hillel says: Cursed is he who does not count to three before proceeding. R. Simon ben Yudah says: Why three? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, gave us the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. R. ben Issac says: Because of the three patriarchs. R. Yehuda says: Why bless the Lord at a stop sign? Because it says, "Be still and know that I am God"....

8. A scholar from the Jesus Seminar concludes that the passage "STOP" undoubtably was never uttered by Jesus himself because being the progressive Jew that He was, He would never have wanted to stifle peoples' progress. Therefore, STOP must be a textual insertion belonging entirely to stage III of the gospel tradition, when the church was first confronted by traffic in its parking lot.

9. A NT scholar notices that there is no stop sign on Mark street but there is one on Matthew and Luke streets, and concludes that the ones on Luke and Matthew streets are both copied from a sign on a street no one has ever seen called "Q" Street. There is an excellent 300 page doctoral dissertation on the origin of these stop signs and the differences between stop signs on Matthew and Luke street in the scholar's commentary on the passage. There is an unfortunate omission in the dissertation, however; it doesn't explain the meaning of the text!

10. An OT scholar points out that there are a number of stylistic differences between the first and second half of the passage "STOP." For example, "ST" contains no enclosed areas and 5 line endings, whereas "OP" contains two enclosed areas and only one line termination. He concludes that the author for the second part is different from the author of the first part and probably lived hundreds of years later. Later scholars determine that the second half is itself actually written by two separate authors beause of similar stylistic differences between the "O" and the "P".

11. Another prominent OT scholar notes in his commentary that the stop sign would fit better into the context three streets back. (Unfortunately, he neglected to explain why in his commentary.) Clearly it was moved to its present location by a later redactor. He thus exegetes the intersection as though the sign were not there.

12. Because of the difficulties in interpretation, another OT scholar amends the text, changing the "T" to "H". "SHOP" is much easier to understand in context than "STOP" because of the multiplicity of stores in the area. The textual corruption probably occurred because "SHOP" is so similar to "STOP" on the sign several streets back, that it is a natural mistake for a scribe to make. Thus the sign should be interpreted to announce the existence of a shopping area. If this is true, it could indicate that both meanings are valid, thus making the thrust of the message "STOP (AND) SHOP."

13. A "prophetic" preacher notices that the square root of the sum of the numeric representations of the letters S-T-O-P (sigma-tau-omicron-pi in the Greek alphabet), multiplied by 40 (the number of testing), and divided by four (the number of the world--north, south, east, and west), equals 666. Therefore, he concludes that stop signs are the dreaded "mark of the beast," a harbinger of divine judgment upon the world, and must be avoided at all costs.
................................................................................................................................................................

source:I found this on a brethren churches discussion forum...

Rick Frueh said...

Calvinism - "Reject it (even like four pointers like Driscoll-(No LA/PR)), and the result is seeker sensitive church and evangelism."

That is a major generalization which is disproven by thousands of Arminian churches who reject the seeker/prpose/emergent type of Christianity. Tozer and Ravenhill are famous examples of prophets who spoke strongly against this wave and exhorted believers to a life of deeper obedience and worship, all while rejecting what you cal "Calvisim".

Even a four pointer is disallowed? Wow, we poor Arminians await the epiphany which will make our Christianity worthwhile. :)

DJP said...

Revivalfire — I like it. I may have seen it before, but one of the benefits of not having an eidetic memory is that you can enjoy the same joke over, and over, and over....

Bryan Riley said...

Puritan,

So, given your response, I don't think you would think much of this post.

I tend to read all these passages as being in the context of fighting for the faith (in God), the gospel (of Jesus and the Kingdom of Jesus), grace, the cross of Christ... not fighting over what is typically classified as "doctrine" by our Western minds.

Mike Riccardi said...

Puritan,

I hadn't known Driscoll was a four pointer. Is there something specific you could point me to to check on that?

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Stefan, thanks for that word in Isaiah. That certainly brings a richness to that text. However, I prefer the translation "Father of eternity" rather that "eternal Father." ;-)

Mike Riccardi said...

Bryan,

Except... since nobody seems to respect definitions anymore, you have to ask, "What is faith in God?" "What is the gospel?" "How do you define grace?" "What is the significance of the cross of Christ?" And that is all doctrine.

Spurgeon said, and I agree with him, that it's unfortunate the name Calvinism exists, because it really is just a nickname for the Gospel of Christ. In fact, just those questions I presented in response to the points you presented would be answered differently by a Calvinist and an Arminian.

The disdain for "doctrine" in the name of "just loving Jesus" by the postmodern regime these days is really repulsive. It's like saying, "Let's all enjoy the company of this guy," when 5 different people are talking about 5 different guys to enjoy. The glorious thing about the Bible is that it's the revelation of God in the face of Christ; it's the way we learn about who Christ really is. "Doctrine," as you disdainfully call it, is only that sound teaching by which we come to know what the face of Christ is and what it is not. And we get fine-grained about doctrine because Jesus is fine-grained about doctrine. He is very explicit about who He is, who we are, and what He wants from us. So because He speaks clearly and specifically about Himself, we must teach what He spoke, not adding anything surely, but also not avoiding anything that He has said. And it's in the contours of the face of Christ that we really see His glory, because we see definitively that 'this' is what He actually looks like, and not 'that.'

Even if some things are "hard to understand," that doesn't mean that they can't be understood, and that we shouldn't strive to see God's glory clearly in the face of Christ. Obscure doesn't mean obsolete, and we should never make such a concession in the name of "unity." Because basically what we'd be saying is, "Let's all hold hands and celebrate our ignorance!" The multiple exhortations to hold fast to sound doctrine and to retain the pattern of sound words and to "go...and teach them to observe all I commanded you" require us to not be so blithe about repudiating 'doctrine.' They require us to do the opposite; see Phil's post all over again.

My Daily Bread said...

"Let their lying lips be silenced, for with pride and contempt they speak arrogantly against the righteous." (Psalm 31: 18 NIV)

I just did a daily bible study in "My Daily Bread" on "arrogancy" and thought this verse fit in with your lesson on silencing certain ones. Surely we have a lot of arrogant talk today that needs to be stopped, especially among those who are promoters of the doctrines of "grace."

God bless.

Stephen

Puritan said...

Mike R, Yes Driscoll calls it "Unlimited-Limited Atonement".

P.S. I'm not an expert on Driscoll, I’ve just picked this up from debating his fans with wacky views. I've only heard one sermon of his about punching Jesus, and that was enough. Then after hearing people tell me 'you must try him again, he's repented' despite the sermon still being available, and 'Piper has discipled him' (which probably meant he's spent a few hours with him), I gave him another listen. This time he was speaking on masturbation and oral sex. Enough said.

Mike Riccardi said...

Thanks Puritan. For anyone else interested, here is a substantiating post.

The Doulos said...

bryan riley: Is Calvinism something worth fighting over? Why or Why not?

I think not. And what I mean by this is that only the Gospel, the central Biblical doctrines of justification by faith alone, substitutionary atonement and the like are worth fighting for. While I wear the label Calvinist, and I believe that the Bible clearly teaches Calvinist theology and doctrines, I don't think it serves the Church or Christ to be militantly Calvinist. While I think that Arminians are mistaken in their understanding of Scripture and God's sovereignty, I can and do minister with them in the cause of the Gospel. When I teach, I teach from a Calvinist viewpoint but eschew the term so as not to cause any unneeded strife. I have found that faithfully teaching the truth of the Gospel as presented in the Word will eventually lead to those being taught coming to a Calvinist view on their own. Not because I fought with them about it, but because the Bible clearly leads to it.

Rick Frueh said...

"bryan riley: Is Calvinism something worth fighting over? Why or Why not?"

Too late, the battle rages!!

Bryan Riley said...

Mike, you must have read more into what I said about doctrine than I intended. I didn't intend to be disdainful - my point by putting doctrine in quotes was that I think we, including me, have a view of doctrine that is very different than what Paul meant when he used the word. Most of the readers here know this better than I, but the word itself simply means teaching. And, as you point out, Jesus talked about teaching what He commanded.

So, then I ask, what were the teachings of Christ, and, no, by asking that I'm not trying to suggest we should be red letter students only; I'm simply saying we should assess what those teachings were. I also think that when we read Paul we should look at what it was he was telling us to fight for and what Jude wanted us to contend for. I don't think it was things like fighting for Calvinism or for water baptism or for tongues or against tongues. I think it was preaching Christ and Christ crucified and living that same life. I think it was fighting for the truth that God so loved us that He died for us and that He gave us the gift of salvation by faith in Jesus. It's good news and not news of a new law.

I agree we need to get to know the contours of Jesus' face - but what does that mean? Does that mean memorizing the words of scripture? I think that can be a part of it, and I think we should do that, but I think it really is talking about getting to know Him just like I have gotten to know my wife and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. I think it speaks of an intimacy with the real Person of Jesus Christ and not just an academic study of the letter.

In case anyone wonders or needs the label, I am much more a Calvinist than anything else, but I really appreciate your response, Doulos, to my question. I came to Calvinism in much the same way you describe in spite of having Arminian teachers growing up. The Holy Spirit really is the best teacher! (But I don't say that to say I have a monopoly of the Truth on this area - I could be wrong (oh, no, here come the postmodern charges...)). :)

Bryan Riley said...

Rick Frueh, thank you for your honest answer and making my point! The battle does rage, but it shouldn't, and I'm guessing you agree. As Doulos says so well, it shouldn't separate us.

Stefan said...

I would echo the Doulos' comment. "Calvinism" per se as a theological camp is not what is to be contended for, but sound biblical doctrine is, at the heart of which is the Gospel. (And I would rather say "contend" and not "fight." Wycliffe, Hus, and Tyndale contended for the Gospel at the cost of their lives—but they did not fight, as if they were pugilists.)

The doctrine of the Trinity is worth contending for, as it came to its fullest formulation at Chalcedon after centuries of struggle: that God is three persons of one essence, and that Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man.

The inspiration, inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency of Scripture is worth contending for.

The Gospel is worth contending for, as it is defined by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, with all it entails: "for our sins" and "in accordance with the Scriptures."

The five solas—the various principles of the reformation that men and women suffered and died for—are worth contending for: that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, according to Scripture alone and for the glory of God alone.

A person who embraces all these—the Chalcedonian understanding of the Trinity; the inspiration, inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency of Scripture; a biblical definition of the Gospel; and the five solas—will end up with a doctrinal outlook that just so happens to line up with the great teachers of our church: Jesus Christ himself, Paul, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, and so on.

What is not worth contending for is saying that anything less than full 5-point Calvinism is insufficient, although I myself do uphold the doctrine of limited atonement. Many four-pointers seem to uphold something other than unreservedly unlimited atonement anyhow, when you start querying them on their views.

Mike Riccardi said...

I think it was preaching Christ and Christ crucified and living that same life. I think it was fighting for the truth that God so loved us that He died for us and that He gave us the gift of salvation by faith in Jesus.

But again, specifically with the Calvinism issue, these things that you're talking about are the heart of the Calvinist-Arminian debate. The question about how God saves, who it is that He saves, and why are all issues addressed differently by Calvinist and Arminian teachings. Like I alluded to before, Calvinism is the gospel. I see no way to separate what theologians call the doctrines of grace from the very teachings of Jesus and Paul that you call our attention to. Tongues and baptism, maybe not so much, and I can understand that. But the doctrines of grace are not so negotiable.

I should note that I too agree with Doulos insofar as I must acknowledge that my fighting for the doctrine won't get people to believe it apart from God Himself revealing it to them through His word. My point is that I need to be proclaiming that word clearly. When Calvinism is attacked, I need to be able to refute the gainsayer (Titus 1:9). I'm not saying that my fighting brings about "Calvinist converts." I'm saying that it's my duty (and my delight) to defend the Gospel. If it's with unbelievers, then it's unto the end of their salvation. If it's with believers who espouse error, then it's unto the end of their instruction, correction, reproof, and training in righteousness, so that every man may be presented perfect in Christ. So again, I appreciate Doulous' practical Calvinism, as he acknowledges that God is the one who convicts of error and reveals truth. But I'm just calling us to remember that God does achieve those ends by ordaining the means of the preaching and defending of truth.

I agree we need to get to know the contours of Jesus' face - but what does that mean? Does that mean memorizing the words of scripture? I think that can be a part of it, and I think we should do that, but I think it really is talking about getting to know Him just like I have gotten to know my wife and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. I think it speaks of an intimacy with the real Person of Jesus Christ and not just an academic study of the letter.

Two things. 1) I've never said that an academic study of the letter gets us intimacy with Christ.

2) But there is no way to get to know Christ apart from His word. It's just plain and simple. You talk like there is. I'll understand that you don't mean to say that when you tell me... but you talk like there is. You speak about getting to know your wife. I agree... Jesus wants us to be in communion with His person. But He is not like your wife in that the way you live with Him, talk with Him, get to know Him, is only through His Word... as it's revealed in the Scriptures, and as it's proclaimed by the teaching of the church. So while an academic study of the Word won't get us intimacy with Christ, only a committed, discipline, spiritual study of the Word will.

And when you see Him clearly presented in His word, you naturally defend against those who say He looks different than He does. So weapons of argument and 'doctrines' as you call them aren't the reason we read the Bible, but they are the result that comes out of a love for the purity of the person of Christ.

But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. ... But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

Utter sovereignty goes to the very heart of the person of Christ, and all-grace salvation goes to the very heart of His work on the cross. To not present Christ and Him crucified as is laid out in the doctrines of grace is to rob Him of the glory He intends to get by presenting Himself the way He does. That's why this is an issue that should be addressed.

Johnny Dialectic said...

"I would echo the Doulos' comment. "Calvinism" per se as a theological camp is not what is to be contended for, but sound biblical doctrine is."

Well said, and this Arminian agrees.

Re: Driscoll. It's not his doctrine so much, but his method (note to the contextualizers). He seems intent on making himself the "star" of the sermon, and because he's intelligent and able, he can do that. I think this is bad form (taking text messages while preaching, and answering off the cuff, as if to prove how learned he is, but getting things a little wrong, etc.) That's not honoring to the Word or his congregation, which deserves better.

Bryan Riley said...

Mike, you say:

"The question about how God saves, who it is that He saves, and why are all issues addressed differently by Calvinist and Arminian teachings"

I say I think they both would answer the way God saves is the cross. Why isn't that enough? Why do we go past that point? Who are we to even say "how God saves." Why isn't it enough to say God saves. Praise the Lord, God saves. We need saving. The cross does it. And I think all who would claim to follow Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, would agree on that. I'm trying to argue that more is unnecessary - while it might be nice to think about and consider and discuss - it isn't really something God calls us to divide over or to fight for. Jesus easily could have told us how it worked, but He didn't. Why do we think we need to do so?

Puritan said...

Agreed Mike. As I said in this Gospel sermon on John 6:44 the other week "Yet shamefully many say 'We're about evangelism, so we don't need to know about the doctrines of Grace'. In other words they are saying 'We're about evangelism, so we don't need to learn about and take into account how God saves a man'. This is like a surgeon bragging, he knows nothing about surgery, when out of his last 30 operations, 29 of his patients are dead."

Granted there are a lot of dead Calvinists out there today, although they are really hypers in disguise. But when people reject Calvinism, 99 times out of a 100, you end up with humanism.

I would also add that most of those who only hold to some of the C points, only hold to them intellectually.

That said, obviously doctrines such as the Deity of Christ and Trinity, Salvation By Grace through faith alone are more important, but if a pastor denys those you have to realize you're dealing with a lost man.

Michelle said...

@ Revival Fire...

I love the synopsis/breakdown you posted about the STOP sign...very entertaining. :)

Have a Blessed Day Everybody!!

Johnny Dialectic said...

"But when people reject Calvinism, 99 times out of a 100, you end up with humanism."

This is a joke, right?

Where are you getting this?

Daryl said...

Johnny D.,

I'd just like to say that, as a Calvinist, I echo your sentiments.

Mike Riccardi said...

I'm trying to argue that more is unnecessary...

I understand that. I disagree with you. So I'm trying to argue that more is necessary.

- while it might be nice to think about and consider and discuss - it isn't really something God calls us to divide over or to fight for.

Disagreed. You beg the entire question with this statement.

Jesus easily could have told us how it worked, but He didn't. Why do we think we need to do so?

I wholeheartedly disagree with this statement. My whole point is that Jesus did tell us how it worked. He gave us a book chock full of how it works.

The import of going more deeply is obvious in experimentally theological terms. I don't have a ton of time right now, but a few questions right off the bat:
- Can I walk up to someone and tell them that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life?
- Can I make the statement that God wants to save them if they would just let him?
- Can I tell my congregation that if they don't preach the gospel right, someone will end up in hell who wouldn't have gone there if they did just preach it right?
- Can I say to just anyone that Christ died for them, so they owe Him their life?
- Can I tell my congregation that if they're a true Christian that they are eternally secure / will persevere to the end based on God's grace? Or do I have to tell them that they're in danger of being lost unless they do/say/believe this or that?

Those questions that need to be answered. And they can only be answered by "going further."

Stefan said...

I'd like to point out that in the principles I enumerated in my last comment, I think the doctrines of grace are naturally and logically deduced from the testimony of Scripture. I personally think "prevenient grace" is hermeneutical gymnastics (sorry, Johnny). If we ever had to move to a new city and I had to find a new church, I would only consider churches that uphold and teach the doctrines of grace, because they're the only ones I could trust to be rock solid in their teaching (other dynamics notwithstanding, like a church full of believers who are all brains and no heart).

But, most of use here also believe that believers' baptism is upheld by Scripture, and that infant baptism is refuted. We don't, however, for a minute question the faith of Luther, Calvin, or the Westminster divines, all of whom baptized babies—even though on this point we believe they were in error.

...And we sing the Wesleys' hymns without calling them rank heretics, even though they were Arminians.

The Doulos said...

Stefan - well said!

Stefan said...

Doulos:

Thanks, but I also agree that there is a slippery slope at play. I understand what Mike and Puritan are getting at. Once you open the door to the possibility of denying the sovereignty of God in salvation, all bets are off (so to speak).

If a pastor who had previously claimed to be a Calvinist started denying or doubting key tenets of the doctrines of grace, we should be concerned, and he should be corrected by his elders or peers.

If a church or denomination that held to a traditional, conservative form of Arminianism (or even Calvinism, for that matter!) drifted into semi-Pelagianism, then they would have drifted into heresy.

Bryan Riley said...

Mike,

Are you saying that you are 100% certain that all five points of what we call Calvinism today perfectly describe how God interacts with His creation?

Bryan Riley said...

I look forward to the day where people in the body of Christ don't feel compelled to say things like "by the way, I'm a calvinist," or "I'm an immersion guy," just to feel like their points will be heard. And, I am guilty in this comment stream of the calvinist one... Darn it.

Stefan said...

Bryan: There is ample scriptural attestation for all five points of the doctrine of grace.

Bryan Riley said...

I know that there is. There is ample scriptural bases for disagreement as well. I'm not a 5 pointer - anymore. Slipping away... :)

I'd also add that I don't see how your questions above would necessarily be answered any differently by people of different persuasions on God's sovereignty. (Although some in various camps may be doubtful of eternal security, although when you talk to them about this it is often a semantic thing more so than a substantive thing.)

So much of our "disagreemnt" is often more semantic than real. Also, much of our disagreement, I believe, is because of our finite minds, grappling with the Infinite.

Mike Riccardi said...

Are you saying that you are 100% certain that all five points of what we call Calvinism today perfectly describe how God interacts with His creation?

Nice try. No, the doctrines of grace are not an exhaustive summary of how God interacts with His creation. Are any one of them incorrect in what they do describe? No.

I'd also add that I don't see how your questions above would necessarily be answered any differently by people of different persuasions on God's sovereignty.

Let me take care of that for you. (I mean to construct no straw man and mean no offense towards Johnny or Rick. These statements are my honest convictions about where each system necessarily and logically leads.)

- Can I walk up to someone and tell them that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life?

Arminian: Yes.
Calvinist: No, not necessarily, unless you intend to be intentionally deceiving. Does God have a wonderful plan for everyone's life? Insofar as everything exists to the glory of God, sure. One just has to agree that in that wonderful plan there may be eternal damnation.

- Can I make the statement that God wants to save them if they would just let him?

Arminian: Yes. They've been shown ample prevenient grace to be able to make that decision.
Calvinist: No. They're dead in trespasses and sins, and must be sovereignly regenerated by God before they can "let him" do anything. Jesus is not subject to the human will.

- Can I tell my congregation that if they don't preach the gospel right, someone will end up in hell who wouldn't have gone there if they did just preach it right?

Arminian: Yes. God gives believers the tools and unbelievers enough grace that this can happen. If you don't actively participate in this, it might mess up God's plan.
Calvinist: No. God has from before time marked out a people for His own possession whom He will effectually call to salvation by the preaching of His word. We should preach promiscuously, but none that are Christ's will be lost.

- Can I say to just anyone that Christ died for them, so they owe Him their life?

Arminian: Yes. Even though you choose 'not-God,' without you asking for it, Jesus died for you anyway. He gave His life for you! Nothing less than surrendering that life that was purchased by Him is an adequate response.
Calvinist: No. Christ did not act as a substitute for the sins of every single person in the world. He died for (i.e., in place of) His own people whom He marked out for His own possession, who will believe in Him in time.

- Can I tell my congregation that if they're a true Christian that they are eternally secure / will persevere to the end based on God's grace? Or do I have to tell them that they're in danger of being lost unless they do/say/believe this or that?

Arminian: No. That they did something to 'acquire' salvation requires that they can do something to lose that salvation. If they don't persevere in faith, they risk becoming lost again.
Calvinist: Yes. Since there was nothing they could do to 'acquire' salvation, there's nothing they could do to lose it. They are sovereignly upheld in faith by grace. He will lose none that are truly His, bringing to completion all good works that He began.

To Stefan's point about Luther, Calvin, and Wesley: I wholeheartedly agree. I'm sorry if I made you think I might disagree. But it doesn't change that if any one of those men were alive, we'd have a responsibility (and a delightful one) to present our case biblically and commit to their consciences that we believe they were in error.

Also, I believe the method and mode of baptism to be less "essential" than the nature of God, man, sin, grace, and salvation. So the resolve I have with the doctrines of grace is greater than the resolve I have with credobaptism.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Mike, no offense taken. I do think you are over simplistic in your theological bites, however. I'm not going to run through each, as that would take us way off on tangents...if TeamPyro wants to do one at a time, that's fine.

Suffice to say there is a biblical basis for refuting each of your points, or at least fine tuning them a bit for true understanding, and this has been so ever since Calvin wore knickers.

So build your local church according to your theological system, and may God bless you. Truly.

And may we find much more common cause against true heresies.

Mike Riccardi said...

Johnny,

Just wanna make sure I'm clear real fast...

I realize that the above points are definitely oversimplified, and are lacking a full fleshing-out with sensitivity to both camps. I had very little time at the time I was posting, and was solely trying to make the point to Bryan that the questions were answered differently by Calvinists and Arminians. I wish I could have held up each view with utmost integrity and careful precision, but time didn't allow.

I'll also allow that my understanding is incomplete. But just know that these are practical questions that get asked often and questions to which I've gotten answers from both camps that are represented in what I wrote above. In other words, I'm not pulling this stuff out of the air. I understand there's different brands of Arminianism, and we're talking about a different animal when we get into Semi-Pelagianism. But again, my point wasn't to put forth air-tight arguments for Calvinism... and neither was it to build straw man arguments for Arminianism. I just wanted to demonstrate that we answer those questions differently.

And I appreciate your blessing at the end. I pray the same for you. And I also don't think that I'd call Arminianism a heresy. Sorry again if it's been coming off that way. Do I think it's out of accord with what Scripture teaches? Sure. Do I think that all Arminians are pagans? Absolutely not.

So I apologize if you feel under- or misrepresented by my characterizations. It wasn't my intent even to get into that neighborhood.

Bryan Riley said...

Mike,

I do understand that theoretically those questions can be answered differently by a C and an A, but here's the rub - even the "purest" of C believers isn't so in tune with the mind of God to be able to know whether someone is elect or not. So, for example, why would you struggle with telling someone that the God, Who Is Love, loves them? (not to mention the fact that God is Love, so we have to let His character and nature begin to educate our education about who He is and how He works).

Anyway, you are correct that we've gotten off topic, because this isn't about soteriology or God's sovereignty - I used that as an example. Given your inability to say that you are 100% certain, and I hope you would agree that there are scriptural bases for disagreement, it seems you should have some grace toward differences of opinion on the topic.

I just know that if someone is calling people to war they, the leader and the followers, had better know what the war is to be about and how it is to be fought. I disagree that the war is about whether God works more as you describe or as Rick would describe. I disagree that the war is about most of what we call doctrine. I believe we are called to unity in Christ. As examples of the potential issues: Is He the Son of God? Is he THE way? Did He die as a perfect sacrifice for sins?

Finally, I don't believe that people are our enemies. Flesh and blood we don't fight against. We fight a spiritual war. We are told to love our neighbors - period. No, that doesn't mean gloss over unbelief - i don't gloss over my children's lack of belief in my authority - but it does mean that i'm not warring against human beings. Even 2 Corinthians 10 tells us we don't wage war like the world does.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Thanks, Mike. I appreciate that.

Debbie said...

This post is so relevant! I had the privilege to meet Phil last weekend at a conference in Rochester, NY. After that, our church book club disscused what are Christians' responsiblities concerning false teachers. I was thinking globally and locally. What are local church leaders supposed to do when leader(s) of other churches start teaching a false gospel? I would hope that people in the church would speak up, but it seems that it is not the rule, but the exception. Many people just leave quietly and say nothing.

Mike Riccardi said...

So, for example, why would you struggle with telling someone that the God, Who Is Love, loves them? (not to mention the fact that God is Love, so we have to let His character and nature begin to educate our education about who He is and how He works).

Because God is not only love, but is also Light, in whom there is no darkness at all. And I don't want to be deceptive in giving them the idea that God loves everyone in the same way. That's irresponsible. There is a common grace that they are beneficiaries of. They get sun and rain just like us. They also get a stay of judgment just like us. But without faith in Christ, they are not loved by God in the way that God loves His children. Simply because God can only love that which is pleasing. And the only thing that is pleasing is Christ. So those who are not "in Christ" as Paul would say have nothing that the Father truly loves. To say anything different violates His holiness.

Given your inability to say that you are 100% certain, and I hope you would agree that there are scriptural bases for disagreement, it seems you should have some grace toward differences of opinion on the topic.

Firstly, I do think that I have some grace towards differences of opinion. But it's not like the color of the wallpaper that we're disagreeing on here. I acknowledge that there are different interpretations, and that they're not arrived at by virtue of psychosis. It doesn't mean I don't think that they're dead wrong.

And I'm not sure where I said I wasn't certain. I'm confident to say that I have no doubt that the Calvinist system laid out in the doctrines of grace more closely and accurately describes the person and work of Christ than the Arminian system. Given my certainty, that still doesn't give me free rein to be grace-less towards Arminians, but that grace doesn't come from an uncertainty about how God is, but a certainty. Doulous demonstrated that perfectly. Because I'm certain that God is so sovereign, I can have a spirit of graciousness to those in error, confident that He is in control of all things, and does everything according to the counsel of His own will, His own perfect decree. So grace doesn't have to come from uncertainty (i.e., false humility). Grace comes from knowing with precision who God is, such that you're transformed by the glory of the Father's grace seen in the face of Christ.

I just know that if someone is calling people to war they, the leader and the followers, had better know what the war is to be about and how it is to be fought.

I believe I know what the war is about. I also believe that there are more primary things to go to war on... things about which Johnny, Rick, and I would all be on the same side. So I'm not saying that these guys are unbelievers with whom I'm at war. More to come on that...

As examples of the potential issues: ... Did He die as a perfect sacrifice for sins?

Again you prove my point. Does 'perfect sacrifice' mean actual substitute? Or does it mean potential substitute? Did He die as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of every single human being who ever lived? Or did He die as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of His own people, marked out before time for His own possession? You can't stay at the level of inclusive language, because nobody knows what you mean. And any responsible, thinking person will say at some point in their inquiry into Christianity, "What does perfect sacrifice mean?" Indeed, if you don't explain that in your proclamation of the Gospel, you are being an irresponsible communicator of the Gospel.

Finally, I don't believe that people are our enemies. Flesh and blood we don't fight against. We fight a spiritual war. We are told to love our neighbors - period. No, that doesn't mean gloss over unbelief - i don't gloss over my children's lack of belief in my authority - but it does mean that i'm not warring against human beings.

I absolutely agree, and don't know why you'd think I thought otherwise. You prove my point here, again, too. Like I was saying before, this issue is an issue for which I go to battle with Johnny and Rick (sorry that you guys seem to be the poster child, here... nothing personal). But I'm not warring against them, I'm warring against their ideology. Which is the precise reason why I can team up with them on other issues. I don't wage war on human beings. I wage war on their ideologies, and every thought not brought into captivity to the Word of God... at least, I know that's what I should be doing, and it's what I purpose to do, even if I transgress at times in this.

So I don't think there's any warrant to insinuate that I'm warring against flesh and blood here. You and I seem to be battling a little bit, but I'm 100% certain that we'd agree on other things for which we'd go to battle on the same side... and I wouldn't be conflicted about it. That's because I'm not at war with you, but the idea that says "Doctrine isn't those things... it's only these things over here."

That seems like an abrupt ending... but no smooth conclusion is coming to mind... lol... so I'll leave it there.

Revivalfire said...

Cheers Dan, I found it extremely amusing!

"The Doulos said...
bryan riley: Is Calvinism something worth fighting over? Why or Why not?

I think not. And what I mean by this is that only the Gospel, the central Biblical doctrines of justification by faith alone, substitutionary atonement and the like are worth fighting for."

Surely 'Calvinism', summarised in the doctrines of grace, are centra. They underpin, and are the overarching theological principles of the Gospel?

I'm a very recent five pointer, however it is my conviction about the gospel and the decline of it within evangelicalism which has caused me to be convinced about the doctrines of grace.

How can we say that 'justification' is worth contending for while Calvinism isnt when Calvinism offers a purer and more biblical understanding of justification by faith?

Mike Riccardi said...

Well-put.

The Spokesman said...

How false teachers are to be silenced is one of those things in Scripture that is crystal-clear. It is not by physical force or auto-da-fé. But they are to be refuted and rebuked by qualified elders in the church who are skilled in the Scriptures, "able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it" (v. 8). That presupposes that vital truth is clear enough to know for certain. And it prescribes a clear remedy involving exhortation, reproof, rebuke, and correction.

The battle for the truth is not of our making but to it we are called and in it we are to be good soldiers of Christ. The danger of not contending for the faith once for all handed down to the saints with a clear and decisive “Thus says the Lord!” is clearly illustrated in Genesis 3. The enemy of truth (the father of lies) twists God’s Word in order to either create doubt about it or presumption toward it. The devil comes with both a liberal interpretation“Indeed, has God said…?” and a conservative interpretation“For it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning you….’” And the devil has many men in both camps as is clearly seen in the Bible and was clearly illustrated in the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Both groups were silenced by the Lord Jesus Christ – see Matthew 22:15-46 highlighting verses 34 and 46 – “But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together.” And, “No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question.”

BTW, it is the devil and his bunch who want a cease fire because it is their speculations, lofty imaginations and well fortified philosophies that are destroyed by the divinely powerful sound doctrine of the Word of God. Therefore the devil and his ministers are behind the ecumenical movement with its strong deceptive current of unity not based on truth. They want peace without purity forgetting that peace is based on purity - “And the work of righteousness (purity) will be peace, and the service of righteousness (purity), quietness and confidence forever” (Isaiah 32:17).

At the heart of the battle for truth is the gospel (soteriology). Included in that is not only the divinity/humanity of Christ but also the nature and character of God (His absolute holiness in all of His dealings either in salvation or damnation) and the nature and character of man (his absolute inability to be good) and therefore the exclusiveness of the gospel. To go wrong in soteriology is to go wrong in ecclesiology and to go wrong in ecclesiology is to go wrong in eschatology – which is exactly what God’s Word tells us will and must happen!

Mike Riccardi said...

it is the devil and his bunch who want a cease fire because it is their speculations, lofty imaginations and well fortified philosophies that are destroyed by the divinely powerful sound doctrine of the Word of God. Therefore the devil and his ministers are behind the ecumenical movement with its strong deceptive current of unity not based on truth. They want peace without purity forgetting that peace is based on purity.

Amen, man. Seriously.

Even sadder is that I don't think many of them forget that peace is based on purity. I think they're deliberate in not remembering that. What you say reminds me of what James says:

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

Bryan Riley said...

I love that passage from James 3. It praises the wisdom from God and tells how it involves good works and spiritual fruit, not words. It also closes with the words that "a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace."

The Doulos said...

revivalfire: How can we say that 'justification' is worth contending for while Calvinism isnt when Calvinism offers a purer and more biblical understanding of justification by faith?

Because Calvinism isn't the Gospel. While I agree that the Reformed view is truer to the Biblical view of justification and all other aspects of the character of God and the work of God in salvation, it is still not the truth of justification by faith. A Biblical Arminian (not an oxymoron, I think) can and does affirm the Gospel truth of justification by faith alone. While not affirming the doctrines of irrestible grace, particular redemption, etc. And is still well within the bounds of Gospel orthodoxy.

Wow, I can't believe I'm defending Arminianism. Which I'm really not. I agree with you that movement away from the doctrines of grace in evangelicalism has weakened the church greatly, caused a loss of sense of God's sovereignty and transcendence, and promoted a man-centered approach to evangelism. But this is more a result of the depreciation of ALL theology and doctrines in the modern / postmodern church, not just the doctrines of Calvinism. But what we're discussing here is defending the core and central truths of the Gospel. And those truths, while many of us agree are better explained by Calvinism, are not exclusive to Calvinism.

I guess I'm reflecting a bit on what I heard at T4G last week, from Duncan and Dever.

Mike Riccardi said...

Bryan,

I'm not sure, but I'll be honest with you: it sounds like your last comment was a pot-shot. If it wasn't, I apologize, and will delete the forthcoming comment.

Firstly, James doesn't say, "The wisdom of God has nothing to do with words." That he doesn't specifically say it... could that be because he just spent the beginning of the entire chapter talking about words and the tongue?

It seems like you're trying to elevate the "good deeds" part above the "first pure" part. That wisdom is shown by the spiritual fruit of good deeds is not nullified or exalted over that the wisdom described is first pure. That is, it's first rightly perceived based on the character of God, and then, having that pure wisdom that is actually from God, you manifest good deeds.

Any group of any people regardless of their spiritual state can hang out and do "good" to one another. There are some very others-conscious, "good" (in the human sense) people. I interact with many of them. But they're not unified by their "good deeds," because they're not done in purity of the wisdom that comes from God.

Same for Christians. Unity is false if it is not based on truth. If that wisdom from God is not pure, if it is not accurate, if it is not a precise and defined revelation from God, then all our smiling faces and happily relating to one another means nothing to Him. It's not glorifying, because He's not the supplier of it.

We can't blur the lines God has drawn in the name of unity.

Bryan Riley said...

Mike, you can always email me to check on my motivation if you are unsure. I know I'm human and have definitely struggled at times with maintaining love, whether in actions or in a comment on a blog or anywhere. Just ask my wife. :) I believe that I can safely say my heart was in good standing when I made that comment.

Thank you for considering my motives and not assuming the worst.

I'm sorry that my phrase "not words" threw you off and made you think I was saying that the wisdom of God never involves words. I was trying to emphasize what I believe James is emphasizing in the context of that passage. I assumed people would know that I wasn't totally excluding words. It simply is a fact that wisdom is generally thought of as all about words, and i was emphasizing that it isn't soley about words. I chose my words poorly in the interest of brevity.

Do you read James 3's reference to "pure" as being all about pure theology (in the academic sense of that word)? Because I don't see that in the passage at all. I would say it is a reference to pure "doctrine" in the Greek meaning of the word - that being teaching. We teach by conduct as much, if not more so, than by our words. My job as a parent demonstrates that to me every day. I also think that is what Jesus showed us by his rabbinical approach with the disciples.

So, I don't discount purity, but I don't think it references a set of academic teachings about the written revelation of God. As you know, Paul himself wrote of God: "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?"

I don't want to blur lines in the name of unity. I hope we can stop and say, "Wow, we are all finite sinners, saved by grace, by an Almighty and unsearchable God. He went to the cross for us. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound. We are but clay; He is the potter. We are the creatures; He is the Magnificent and Infinite Creator. Let's stop pointing at one another, fix our eyes on Jesus, and simply stand in awe of Him, doing what He's commanded us to do: to love Him with all our hearts, soul, and mind, and to love one another as we love ourselves."

I dont think we accomplish this by trumpeting about how we know all about how God works, particularly when there are legitimate biblical arguments over all of these (and we've been debating the same argumetns for 2000 years). Where things are clear - like what God says of Himself (He is the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Resurrection, the Bread of LIfe, the Gate, the Good Shepherd, Holy, Faithful, True, Righteous Judge, Merciful, our Husband, our provider, our King, our creator, and so on), then we will stand firm. And we will do what He's asked us to do.

Mike Riccardi said...

Bryan,

I understand.

But I seem to think He's been a lot clearer on a lot more things than you seem to think.

I think that James means that wisdom is first precise according to the character of God. If you want to call that theological orthodoxy, fine. I'm not using that phrase because of connotations, but I think he's saying that if wisdom is not first in line with God's character and His revelation, then it's no wisdom. I do think it's doctrine. And while doctrine is passed on by action, I hesitate to give orthopraxy the place you're giving it. Orthopraxy must be first informed by orthodoxy. I think of Paul telling Timothy, "Follow the pattern of sound words," and of Jesus saying, "My words are Spirit and are Life," and "My word is like a rockbed foundation upon which you can build your house." Certainly wisdom is vindicated by her actions. But the Bible speaks about "doctrine" as the pattern of sound words that shape our actions, not the actions themselves. If it did, we'd be moralists, just trying to earn our salvation.

And we can't fix our eyes on Jesus and worship Him in awe if we don't know who He actually is. To the degree that we know Him better, more precisely, to that degree is He glorified. The more imprecise or errant our knowledge of Him, the less He is glorified. He has made Himself known. His ultimate purpose is to display Himself. May we never accusing Him of being so lofty and exalted that we cannot see Him clearly.

And I'm not saying I know everything there is to know about God. And I'm not saying He's not unsearchable. But I am saying that He's given us His Word. His full, written revelation. Everything we need. The Word tells all about Him. What He's like. What His judgments and paths are like. And He commands us to study it and know it and be convicted about it.

He's also given us His own Spirit, who illuminates that Word. So that even if we couldn't understand it on our own (we can't, even though it's in front of us), the Spirit helps us.

AND, He's also given us the mind of Christ (1Cor 2). No eye has seen, nor ear has heard... but God revealed it to us through His Son, and is pleased to give us the mind of Christ "so that we may know" these things.

So I think I can trumpet about how I know God. In fact, I think God commands that from me. "Let he who boasts boast in the LORD, that he understands me and knows me." I'm not parading and advertising my insight, or my mental or spiritual acumen, or my divinely-helped intellect. I am boasting in my humility... that though I'm nothing, the Creator of the Universe has made Himself known to me! He has revealed Himself to all the world in His creation, and most exactly and precisely in His Son, by whom He gives His own revelation, which He graciously codified for us in the pages of Scripture. It is the glory of glories that God has made Himself known. And He hasn't just made a few things known. He has truly revealed Himself and His own mind.

We will both agree that where God has made Himself clear, we should be certain. Where we disagree is the amount of things about which God has clearly revealed in Scripture. When men disagree for 20,000 years, let alone 2,000, it'll never be a blemish on the clarity of God's revelation, but only on the sinfulness of man. Disagreement, difficulty in understanding, good arguments on both sides... none of that undermines clarity, and neither does it undermine certainty or confidence.

God has convicted me of and revealed to me His truth, and by His grace will continue to do so. As He does this, I must speak what He has declared. What else could I do? I hope that you see that the things in Scripture are clearer and more decisively revealed than you now think. I honestly do... for your sake and for His glory.

Bryan Riley said...

Mike,

I believe a lot of things about God, and, of course, I'd like to think I'm right on all of them. In that I could even say I'm certain of them. But I also see a lot of mystery in the bible and in God and it doesn't scare me at all (and I'm not saying it scares you by saying that).

I agree that wisdom is about the character of God. But God's character is that He is love, His mercy, His faithfulness, His holiness, His justice, His wrath, His righteousness, and those sorts of things. I don't see His character as touching on the issue of how He thinks or interacts with His creation (except that it will be consistent with being love, being merciful, being righteous, etc.).

Yes, He's given us the Comforter and He's given us the mind of Christ, and He gave Paul those, too, and Paul still said what He said in Romans 11.

Basically, I agree with nearly all you've said in your last comment, but I'd say that all of that doesn't stop the conclusion of james 3 or Paul's constant call to make every effort for peace and unity among the body of Christ.

Fantastic discussion.

Doulos, I love what you shared as well. T4G sounds fantastic.

Revivalfire said...

Hey, thanks for reply. you say

"A Biblical Arminian (not an oxymoron, I think) can and does affirm the Gospel truth of justification by faith alone. While not affirming the doctrines of irrestible grace, particular redemption, etc. And is still well within the bounds of Gospel orthodoxy."

I would say, a biblical Arminian, is one whos core theology and experience contradicts his arminian leanings. I was once one of those myself and many of my freinds are also. What I mean is just because they believe that they exercised free will doesnt change the fact that God actually chose them.

"I agree with you that movement away from the doctrines of grace in evangelicalism has weakened the church greatly, caused a loss of sense of God's sovereignty and transcendence, and promoted a man-centered approach to evangelism. But this is more a result of the depreciation of ALL theology and doctrines in the modern / postmodern church, not just the doctrines of Calvinism. But what we're discussing here is defending the core and central truths of the Gospel. "

I would argue that the decline of all theology began when protestant evangelicals shifted towards arminianism and liberalism.

You seem to underestimate just how trajic that 'man centered' consequence is for the doctrines of justification etc and the core of the faith.

It is precisely this that has paved the way for every error in the church.

Pauls rebuke to the Galatians was a rebuke for mingling a little mancentredness with grace. His response 'youve fallen from grace' 'let the preacher of another gosple be eternally condemed'! What was this other gospel? Grace and human effort.

This is why teh doctrines of grace are so intimately linked with the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are not an accessory which gives one a better version than the model that doesnt have them!